So, have I mentioned lately I don’t like change, the unexpected, surprises?
I think I’m a slow learner. (Best not to mention things we don’t like.) All three of those things happened at once last week. I’m not alone, grandsons don’t like change either. In fact, my grandchildren often like the humdrum routine best. Go to gwammy’s, do this, eat that, end the day with those – repeat next time.
Routine is familiar, safe. But from Adam and Eve up through you and me – life isn’t static or certain. “And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.” (1John 2:17 NLT)
Here’s what I think I’m hearing, learning: will I release control? Will I not try to fix it? Will I, instead, listen intently to the Holy Spirit, search the Scriptures more, choose to let Love show the way? God is Love right? Then the answer to most dilemmas must be our hearts filled up with His love.
“And this is His commandment: We must believe in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us.” (1John 3:23 NLT) This is not easy stuff. It is not our normal. In our world we are taught we are number one, get what we’re entitled to. Yet answers to change are often: wait, patience, forbearance, long-suffering, don’t rush ahead, slow down, listen, forgive. Ugh.
There will be a someday when the unexpected will only produce delight. A forever where life is anything but routine and we will welcome it. An eternity where surprise will elicit: ‘I can’t wait’.
Until then, there’s much our souls need to learn. The Bible doesn’t have words idly written for someone in another time. No words once relevant, but aren’t now. Every word, principle, life story, outcome – all there for us today, and all who will read it until Jesus returns.
The certainty our hearts need can’t come from circumstances around us. The routine you and I can thrive off of is a mindset and heartset centered around reading the Creator’s words, memorizing those words, turning our thoughts constantly to a God perspective, praying without stopping. In those, there is no unexpected, no change, and no surprise – except that of peace and joy. “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and He will give you everything you need.” (Luke 12:31 NLT) Can’t wait!
The youngest grandson is a bit over one, he’s been slower to warm up to me than the others. But recently, when I enter his home or he comes to mine, he comes running, arms up – and in my embrace, his head buries deep.
Sweet as my grandchildren’s, children’s, husband’s, friend’s love is…it’s fickle, just like mine. If I chastise them, pouty lips come out. If they hurt my feelings, folded arms are raised. This weary world searches desperately for love – defines it with words, or gifts, or demonstrations, or time. But definitions fall short and all the searching is never satisfied.
“Above everything, love one another earnestly, because love covers over many sins.” (1Peter 4:8 GNT) And why is it we so long for this elusive thing we’ve named love?
I’m thinking before any first breaths, there was Love. The One who made us is infinite Love. Planted soul-deep is real love and God longs for us not to so much look for it, but to live it and give it, knowing that in those we will be most satisfied.
Nothing wrong with our acts and demonstrations of love. Nothing wrong with our longings for love. But all this is best met, and given, when we are filled with the Source of unending, relentless, ever-pursuing love – Jesus. “And we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and the one who remains in love remains in God, and God remains in him.” (1John 4:16b HCSB)
The Holy Spirit’s first gift to us? Love. It’s first in the line-up of the things He fills us with. The last question Jesus asked Peter “Do you love Me?” – three times. Really? Do we?
Then let’s live it. In the living of love we will find love. Been right with us since the moment we asked the Savior to take over our life, we just forget it’s not to be hoarded. Freely given, it multiplies to overflowing.
Whenever we feel the least like giving love, in that moment, if we can remember to praise God for His love, we will be transformed and so will the heart in front of us. So this is love. “We love because God first loved us.” (1John 4:19 GNT)
After a week away from me, my four year old grandson hugged my legs tightly, a week was too long. My closest friend lives across the country, our times together are few, we beg for time to slow down when we get together. Looking at the love of my life of almost thirty-eight years, I know it is never enough.
Precious are moments with those we love. Jesus walked daily with His disciples for three short years. After the crucifixion and resurrection Christ appeared and spent brief times with those who loved Him. I can’t imagine how precious those moments were. “When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread…Jesus said to them, ‘Come and have breakfast.’…This was now the third time Jesus appeared to His disciples after He was raised from the dead.” (John 21:9, 12, 14 NIV)
Often we feel alone because we can’t always be in the presence of those who mean the most to us. When my children were young we listened to songs by the Donut Man: “Life without Jesus is like a donut; there’s a hole in the middle of your heart.”
We try to fill the hole with many things: our sweet relationships here on earth, activities, work, pleasure. In the end, we still feel an emptiness. Until…we ask Jesus to be our constant companion.
“And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20b NLT)
Here’s some really great news – someday, all who accept Jesus as Lord and Savior, will be reunited with each other and with Him. Then we get to have forever to have many adventures and make many discoveries. And we never have to worry about running out of time.
Together without any of our selfish ways and annoying flaws. Together without fears or sorrows. Together because the love of God is so vast and deep and amazing, that with us is where Messiah most longs to be.
“Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God.” (Revelations 21:3b NIV) Together…and our walk here on earth is meant to gather many to be with Him also.
Ever notice how children know their mom’s voice – even at a noisy playground. Little heads spin when mom calls. Our voices are unique. Sure we can train them to sound a certain way, but the one we grew up with is uniquely ours.
God creates us with so many one of a kind qualities. There may be similarities, but even identical twins have traits that are theirs alone. Even more amazing is that He knows each of us so intimately. Knowing the number of hairs on our head and the wounds and scars of our souls.
Truly astounding though is this: Jesus wants us to know Him intimately as well. “I am the good shepherd, and I know My own, and I am known by My own.” (John 10:14 BLB)
Here’s the question of the day – how well do you know Christ? Getting to know that voice so well that others can’t lead us astray is pretty important in the times we’re living in.
If I wanted to get to know you really well, how would that happen? Go out once in a while to dinner? Nope. Meet up once a year for a whole week? Nope. Spending time regularly with you would be the only way. It’s the same with God. To know the One who created you: spend time in His Bible, time in prayer, time with others who follow Jesus, and listen always for His leading. Day in and day out these will make us experts in knowing His voice. “Listen! I am standing and knocking at your door. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in and we will eat together.” (Revelation 3:20 CEV)
The Savior is calling to you now. But someday, Jesus is going to make a final call to all who follow Him. Before then there will be imitators trying to lead us astray. When the Day comes and He calls, putting an end to all deception, we need to recognize that voice.
“He calls His own sheep by name and leads them out.” (John 10:3b NLT) By name. He will call you out to gladly follow Him. I’m thinking when we hear that Voice say our name, we won’ be able to mistake it. For He’s been speaking it since before He began knitting us together in our mother’s womb. That voice – He called you by name before your first breath and He’ll call you by name when you breathe your first eternity breath.
Ever had a toenail removed? Me either – til last night. An injury turned into a problem and, though I tried to ignore it for a couple of weeks, the pain caused an urgent care visit.
In our crazy times, it’s hard to keep our footing. Some people choose words for the year. Words such as courage or wonder. The words are meant to help us focus and improve. I’ve done it off and on – some years forgetting my word by summer, others feeling like I failed. But this year a local pastor said he felt the word for 2021 should be: Jesus. Not a word, but a person.
I think he’s on to something. I feel like I spent nine months of 2020 focused on many wrong things. Things that didn’t make a difference, didn’t help or encourage, things that sucked life instead of breathing life. “Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from beginning to end.” (Hebrews 12:2a GNT)
I’m watching my steps closely now, not wanting to stub my toe, protecting it until it heals. Graceful may not be an accurate description of how I usually do day-to-day. I bump into things, trip over things, enjoying the moments and not always noticing the obstacles.
“Keep walking on straight paths, so that the lame foot may not be disabled, but instead be healed.” (Hebrews 12:13 GNT) Lame used here is not physical, but spiritual. A spiritual lameness that results when our focus is on anything other than Christ. Distraction caused my toe injury, the same can cause us to stumble in our spiritual life.
And though God is always right there to help us through when we find ourselves stumbling, I think the next verse points us to one more reason as to why it’s important to look where our souls are plodding along to: “Try to be at peace with everyone, and try to live a holy life, because no one will see the Lord without it.” (Hebrews 12:14 GNT)
See the Lord – in us. Others are watching. Longing for the right path – one that leads them to Jesus. Show them the way, don’t swerve:
“Let your eyes look directly forward,
and your gaze be straight before you.
Ponder the path of your feet;
then all your ways will be sure.
Do not swerve to the right or to the left;
turn your foot away from evil.” (Proverbs 4:25-27 ESV)
I miss wonder. I’m sure I was once in awe at a dragonfly, a popsicle, a walk in the garden.
Kids ask a lot of questions. Why is your hair crazy gwammy? How are your tacos cooking gwammy? Did Jesus make the legos too? Maybe we need to ask more questions and make less presumptions. But I’m not talking about dialogue in the world. The world’s answers aren’t reliable, they’re self-motivated responses.
Ask the Father. Why God? Why is life hard? How do I take another painful step? Where do I go now? Then we have to listen…for the answers. “My child, pay attention to what I say. Listen carefully to My words. Don’t lose sight of them. Let them penetrate deep into your heart, for they bring life to those who find them, and healing to their whole body.” (Proverbs 4:20-22 NLT)
This past week I was a bit downcast, well more than a bit. I asked, as I padded across the kitchen floor, ‘God, how do we overcome this evil?’ Clear was the response: ‘How have I told you to overcome?’ And then the verse written in my memory: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21 NIV)
But it doesn’t seem like good can prevail. ‘Will it God?’ Again His Word buried in my soul: “I am still confident of this, I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD. Be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.” (Psalm 27:13-14 NIV)
Why should we, the children of God, ever be downcast? Victory over evil, over our messes, over death is already accomplished. How should we go about our days – days of turmoil and days of joy? They will mix and mingle with one another and add up to a lifetime. Lived well, they will look like a person: Jesus.
So, let’s ask why of only One. And listen carefully for His reply. His deposit in us, the wonderful Holy Spirit, will whisper the answers we need. Maybe not the answers we want. Always the answers we need.
“Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God…Deep calls to deep in the roar of Your waterfalls; all Your waves and breakers have swept over me. By day the LORD directs His love, at night His song is with me– a prayer to the God of my life.” (Psalm 42:6, 8-9 NIV)
When I began homeschooling I discovered there are different learning styles. One of those is the visual learner.
I’m a visual – if I can see it, I can learn it, I can do it. Since then I’ve also learned that I prefer knowing what’s going to happen next, all the details of the day or the trip, no unknowns. But that’s not life in this world.
Long ago, Elisha, a prophet of God lived during a time of war. He warned the people where the enemy would attack next. This enraged the enemy. They discovered who was foiling their plans and went secretly at night to surround him. Upon waking, his servant went outside only to discover a great army all around. Fearful they would die, he ran to Elisha who told him: fear not, our army is greater still. The servant only saw himself and Elisha. “O Lord, open his eyes so he may see.’ The the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.” (2Kings 6:17b NIV)
Centuries later when Jesus was just eight days old, a man named Simeon had been waiting his whole life to ‘see’. As Mary and Joseph presented Jesus in the temple, Simeon came to them. The Lord had promised Simeon he would see God’s salvation before he died.
Taking the Christ child in his arms he praised God: “I have seen Your salvation, which You have prepared for all people. He is a light to reveal God to the nations, and He is the glory of Your people Israel!” (Luke 2:30-32 NLT)
Two thousand years later, you and me, we’re also waiting to see. We may not have our eyes opened like Elisha and his servant, we may not have a promise from God like Simeon, but He has given us what we need to see with our hearts.
Before Elisha could see the spiritual realm, before Simeon could see his Savior in the flesh, they had to have hearts surrendered to God. A deep faith that trusted no matter how things ‘looked’ with earth eyes, their hearts knew God was faithful to His promises.
I’m reminded that though I may question how all the days ahead will work out, I can trust the Holy Spirit to show me the way. As God’s children we have His promises – and we shall some day to see Him face to face. Til then He lights the way. “You light a lamp for me. The LORD, my God, lights up my darkness.” (Psalm 18:28 NLT)
Just a couple days and 2020 will be done. Do you know what 2021 holds?
If we’ve learned anything in the 365 days since we looked forward to a new year, it’s this: there’s much we do not know. Don’t know if there will be prosperity or great need, robust health or debilitating disease, a loved one close by or far from reach, things the same or turned upside down, peaceful lives or chaotic unrest.
There is One who knows. God is never surprised, caught off guard. “But even if we don’t feel at ease, God is greater than our feelings, and He knows everything.” (1John 3:20 CEV)
And the Bible tells us there is much we can know. Know in a way that the world longs for. The ‘knows’ listed throughout Scripture satisfy us with heart rest. We know that the faithfulness of Jesus never waivers, know that we are never alone as the Holy Spirit is with us always – know that whatever unknown shakes us up, the Father sees us through.
“In certain ways we are weak, but the Spirit is here to help us. For example, when we don’t know what to pray for, the Spirit prays for us in ways that cannot be put into words.” (Romans 8:26 CEV) Closer than our skin is our Creator – even to the point of putting into words for us what we desperately seek.
So as we step into a “new” year, it’s not what we know, but Who we know. And Who we are known by.
We can’t see the future, can’t predict it, can’t outsmart it. “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” (1Corinthians 13:12 NIV) “Then” – when there are no more new years, just forever new horizons, new wonders.
Then we will have the illusive peace we seek and there shall be no more fretting through a crazy year. You know the Way, the Truth, and the Life – and He knows you.
PLaY CReaTivEly WitH YoUr LiTtLe OnE
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